this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; New Orleans Saints draw on past for NFC title game By Nakia Hogan, The Times-Picayune Many of the New Orleans Saints players have been here before. Just three years ago, they advanced to the NFC championship game. But they were ...
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|01-19-2010, 10:50 AM||#1|
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New Orleans Saints draw on past for NFC title game
By Nakia Hogan, The Times-Picayune
Many of the New Orleans Saints players have been here before. Just three years ago, they advanced to the NFC championship game.
But they were out of their element then.
Playing under a rookie head coach, with a new quarterback and a revamped roster, the Saints weren't quite ready for their first foray into a conference title game.
They also weren't ready for the frigid temperatures in Chicago or the unruly crowd at Soldier Field in 2007.
The Saints won't have to deal with the same factors Sunday at the Superdome as they host the Minnesota Vikings in the first-ever NFC title game in New Orleans.
"This team is a lot more mature than we were in 2006," Saints outside linebacker Scott Fujita said. "Reggie (Bush) was a rookie three years ago, so was Marques Colston, so was Jahri Evans. These guys are four-year vets now. To have that maturity level going into this big game here at home is just a completely different feeling.
"For me personally I know I can draw from that experience because that was the first time I had ever been that close to the Super Bowl. When you are knocking on the door like that and you are that close and to be turned away that's disappointing.
"You don't know how many chances you are going to get again," Fujita continued. "To be the one seed like we are right now and to be able to host the NFC championship game and have a chance to go to the Super Bowl, you might not have another chance to do this. So yeah, I'm drawing from that experience four years ago."
That experience was a disappointing one, as the Saints wrapped up their surprising season with a 39-14 loss to the Bears.
Since then the Saints, who missed the playoffs in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, have been smarting for another opportunity.
During the 2009 offseason, they brought in defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, added All-Pro safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Jabari Greer.
Now they are in the best position to reach the Super Bowl than any team in franchise history.
The Saints (14-3) won their first 13 games this season and wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and stand one victory against the Vikings (13-4) from making the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl appearance.
"It's almost night and day," Saints offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said comparing this season to 2006. "The maturity of this team, just the amount of time we've spent together.
When we were in Chicago that was our first year together and we were still trying to figure things out on the run. For the most part, the core group of guys has been around. There have been situations that we have seen since that is only going to make us better prepared for this situation that comes on Sunday."
Colston, the Saints' leading receiver, agreed.
"This being my fourth year in the league now, I just kind of realize how special it is to get to this point in the season," he said. "This is an opportunity you really want to take an advantage of. Just coming in we know that that is going to be a huge factor. The home-field advantage has been a great advantage for us throughout the whole season. We look forward to getting in front of the crowd and playing a good game."
The Saints showed they can regroup from adversity after scoring impressive come-from-behind victories against the Dolphins and Redskins.
After a 0-3 finish to the regular season, they also proved they can turn the switch on again when they need to, whipping the Cardinals 45-14 last week in a divisional round playoff game.
"I guess you'd say (the Saints are) more traveled in having gone through these games," Payton said. "Each week you learn things about yourself and about your team and about your preparation. I thought last week we had good focus. I felt like our guys were looking forward to playing. The way we practiced was a real good sign that we were ready. I think just from the experience you learn more as a coach, and I think the other thing that's important is that you never want to stop learning."
Saints running back Pierre Thomas wasn't on the team in 2006. But he said he senses the urgency of this team to get to the Super Bowl.
And it should help that Sunday's game is in the Superdome, where the Saints are 7-2 this season. The Vikings are 4-4 on the road.
"Now that we are at home we seem like we have an advantage," Thomas said. "Our crowd is behind us. They have the Dome loud and crazy and it helps us out. And it helps our defense out.
"The attitude now is that guys just want to go out and finish everything. We worked so hard this season and we want to finish it out. We want to go out here and prove a point to everybody. We want to show everybody that we can be that team to make it to the big show. What we have to do now is stay focused and keep doing what we have been doing."
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|01-19-2010, 02:37 PM||#3|
Join Date: Jul 2002
Re: New Orleans Saints draw on past for NFC title game
Biggest differences between today and 2006 are as stated, the maturity level of the players, the experience in the system and almost as important, the home field advantage. Big difference playing in New Orleans than Chicago in January.